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Tualatin Police are going polar

Two Tualatin police officers commit to 24 hours of plunging for the Special Olympics


by: JAIME VALDEZ - Patrick Sinnott meets with Tualatin Police Department Chief of Police Kent Barker on a recent tour of the department along with his parents, Nick and Alisa. Before you decide on your new year’s resolution, consider this: Tualatin Police Capt. Larry Braaksma and Lt. Greg Pickering will jump into the Columbia River 24 times in as many hours this winter.

At noon on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, the officers will take their first frigid dip at Broughton Beach as one of the elite few to participate in the Super Polar Plunge. For them, it’s a way of demonstrating their support for Special Olympics athletes — specifically, 29-year-old Patrick Sinnott, a Tigard High School graduate and a member of the championship basketball team that took the 2002 state title.

Pickering explained that police have a long tradition of supporting the organization, beginning with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, which began in 1981.

The Super Polar Plunge is an extension of the Polar Plunge in Oregon, which was organized in 2007 by members of the Bend Police Department. While the Polar Plunge Oregon requires a $50 registration fee, the Super Polar Plunge costs $3,000. And, of course, dedication.

Last year, there were only 11 super plungers in the Portland area. Braaksma and Pickering were one of the 1,945 who opted to jump into the Columbia only once last year, but decided they wanted to go more extreme in 2014.

“We got a hold of Special Olympics Oregon, and we were trying to get Patrick's endorsement to help us out to raise money,” Braaksma said.

Sinnott’s endorsement means a lot. This will be the Tualatin resident’s fourth year leading his own team, Patrick’s Homies and Hunnies, which last year boasted 26 members — many of them Sinnott’s old classmates at Tigard High.

Sinnott is well known, not only for his athletic achievements at Tigard and in the Special Olympics, but for supporting his fellow sportsmen as assistant athletics facilities manager at Lewis & Clark College as well.

A 50-year tradition

In Oregon, the organization offers more than 10,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities training and competition opportunities in 15 Olympic-style events, including basketball, football and golf — Sinnott's events.

The nonprofit dates back to 1963, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy and wife of Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, hosted a summer camp that offered developmentally disabled adults the opportunity to engage in competitive sports and physical activity. The first official games were held five years later, and in 1971, the U.S. Olympics Committee effectively endorsed the organization by allowing it to use the term “Olympics.” Currently, the Special Olympics organization supports 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries, with the aim of increasing confidence and capability, while fostering a greater sense of community among participants.

Polar power

In 2013, the Plunge raised nearly $464,000 statewide. In the Portland area, the 11 Super Plunge volunteers raised more than $57,000.

As Braaksma and Pickering were quick to point out, they are two of only three members of the police department to take on the Super Plunge challenge, and among only about 20 Super Polar pledgers so far.

While the officers are seeking donations to meet their fundraising goals, they’re asking residents and city employees to become members of Tualatin’s Polar Plunge team, which will join Braaksma and Pickering for their final jump in February.

For any would-be volunteers worried about the logistics of the aquatic event, have no fear: Pickering explained that due to the large number of participants, jumpers “take the plunge” in shifts in a buoyed area that is patrolled by rescue divers to ensure safety.

Pickering explained that proceeds from fundraising would go directly to the Special Olympics and its athletes. To be more specific, $500 allows an athlete to participate in Special Olympics for a year; $1,000 outfits an entire Special Olympics softball team with uniforms and equipment; $2,500 allows Special Olympics to purchase 250 uniforms for their athletes.

This year, Oregon's Polar Bear Plunge will be held in Portland, Eugene and Corvallis on Feb. 8; in Bend on Feb. 15; and in Medford on Feb. 22.

More information:

  • Polar Plunge Oregon
  • Lt. Greg Pickering's donation page
  • Capt. Larry Braaksma's donation page



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